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In the simplicity of prayer

· Best wishes to Benedict XVI who turns 85 on 16 April ·

Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican on Friday, 13 April, after a week’s rest at Castel Gandolfo. He arrived 48 hours earlier than expected so that he could be here to welcome his brother, Mons. Georg Ratzinger. The two spent several days together preparing for more than one celebration: the Pontiff’s 85th birthday on Monday, 16 April; the 7th anniversary of his election as the Successor of Peter on Thursday, 19; and the inauguration of his Pontificate on Tuesday, 24.

On Monday, 16 April, the Holy Father wanted to begin the day with Mass in the Pauline Chapel; his closest collaborators concelebrated, including Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State, and Cardinal Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals.

It was indeed a “Bavarian” celebration; Pope Benedict received congratulations from a large delegation of civil and religious authorities and faithful from his homeland.

Speaking off the cuff and in German, the Pontiff’s Homily inspired. He began by expressing gratitude to two saints — Bernadette Soubirous and Benedict Joseph Labre — whose liturgical Memorial the Church celebrates on 16 April. The former, he confided, is the sign pointing to the living water which every Christian needs to purify himself. The latter, begging his way across the Shrines of Europe, shows man the essence of life: God alone suffices to tear down the barriers that prevent brotherhood between peoples.

Then, he made room for personal memories: starting with those of his parents and of everyone who has accompanied him throughout his life, enabling him to perceive the Lord's presence; that of the unique coincidence of his Baptism and Holy Saturday, he said, showed him the profound connection between birth and rebirth. This is a reality far stronger than any threat or adversity, which the Pontiff said he himself is experiencing above all now, in the last chapter of his life. He is deeply aware that God's goodness overcomes all evil and helps us to continue safely on our way through life.

Then, the Pope thanked the Delegation from Bavaria which he received in the Clementine Hall. First, he thanked Minister President Seehofer, for his words which reminded him of the places in which he grew up;he also thanked Cardinal Reinhard Marx for the thoughts inspired by his reference to the beautiful faith of a Church to which he has never ceased to feel deeply connected, a Church whose face was made vividly present in his mind thanks to the presence of so many Bishops. Similarly vivid to him were the bonds of friendship with representatives of other Christian denominations and with the Jewish community. Lastly, a thought — perhaps the most personal and intimate — was evoked by hearing his native folk music. The tunes were familiar to him: his father, in fact, played that very melody on the zither, “the Lord greets you”. This piece accompanied him in his childhood and is still part of his present, as it will also be part of his future.

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